Mother, Father, Rosie and Jake
By James A Beaumont
The End. The movie finishes. The hero got the girl and everybody lives happily ever after.
‘Was it like that for you and daddy, mommy?'
Mother glances at father. ‘It was a different time back then,’ she says to her children.
‘Different how?’ Eleven-year-old Jake asks, ‘You still had the internet and things.’
Mother and father laugh. Rosy, always keen to be in on the joke, laughs too.
‘That’s true,’ mother says, ‘But romance was still there – It was still alive.’
‘Like in the movie?’ Rosy asks.
‘Well, kinda like the movie. What do you think?’ Mother asks father.
‘Hmm,’ father says, and he flashes mother his slanty smile, ‘We had our moments.’
‘Ugh, nothing mushy,’ Jake says.
‘Daddy sang for you?’ Rosy asks.
Father shifts about at the end of the sofa.
‘Actually,’ mother says, ‘daddy did.’
‘Oh no, you’re not going there,’ father says and he reaches out as if to stop her.
Mother grabs his hand and the two of them start laughing.
Jake sighs and rolls his eyes, a gesture he’s copied from the movie.
‘Now, when was it . . .?’ mother begins, feigning momentary amnesia.
‘Oi, now that’s enough of that,’ father says to her, his tone still playful and he makes to restrain her again.
‘Oh yeah, I remember,’ mother says and she’s off the couch; the children are on their feet like there’s been a silent command for one of their games. Mother moves behind Rosy and father is off the couch now too and he picks up Jake. The children know what is expected of them and they become almost limp in their parent’s arms.
‘Get her, Jake,’ father says and he moves Jake forward in a parody of a puppeteer.
‘Defend, Rosie,’ and the two playfight with their children; nothing violent; no striking; just Jake making robot sounds and Rosie bubbling up all the noise she can muster and soon all of them lying in a heap on the carpet.
‘What were we talking about again?’ Mother asks after a moment, her hands crawling through her daughter’s hair.
Rosy has her tongue splayed out, mirroring her brother, both of them playing dead.
‘The movie,’ father says.
‘Oh, of course, the moment you sang to me.’
‘Not that again.’
Rosy sparks to life and Jake continues to play dead.
‘It was many years ago now,’ mother begins, sitting up with her back against the base of the armchair with Rosy nestling into her lap. ‘Yes, where were we?’
‘Haven’t the slightest idea,’ father says but he starts to smile.
‘Oh yes, it was a pub, in Cambridge, and . . . oh, I’ve forgotten why we were there . . .’
Father is studying a part of the wallpaper but he interjects, almost as if he can’t help himself – ‘Your leaving do.’
‘Oh of course. Yes, there were quite a few of us there, weren’t there? All the work gang and others as well. Anyway, your father, well, there was an open mic on at the time –’
‘What’s an open mic?’ Rosy asks.
‘Well, it’s when people can go up on a stage and perform songs. They have a microphone already set up so you just go up there and play. Anyone can do it.’
‘What, even Jake?’
Mother and father laugh and father now has his hand in his son’s hair and Jake doubles his efforts of playing dead.
‘Yes,’ mother and father say together, ‘Even Jake if he ever wanted.’
‘He’d have to be accompanied by his parents,’ father remarks.
‘So,’ mother continues, ‘your father was playing that night and it was quite – well, we didn’t really know each other that well at the time.’
‘Depends what you mean by know,’ father says.
‘Oh shut up,’ mother says playfully and she’s smiling. ‘Well, your father plays and – maybe you didn’t know this about your father – but he used to write his own songs –’
‘Of course we know, he’s always trying to play them,’ Jake says, then, remembering he’s supposed to be dead, he rolls out his tongue again and adopts the glaze-eyed look.
Father laughs and mother laughs and for a moment there is just laughter as Rosy stares between her parents, wanting to join in again but now not finding her moment.
‘OK, so you already knew that. Anyway, one of your father’s songs was for me. He’d written it for me.
‘It was beautiful.’
‘Later that night, when all of our friends arrived, we were sat outside and he played it again. It made me feel . . . it made me feel like I was the only one there. And that was when I knew.’
Mother waits for Rosy to ask what it was that mother knew but mother looks down and Rosy’s asleep in her lap. Jake too has his eyes closed now, his tongue is back in his mouth and sleep has crept up on him.
Mother and father put the children to bed.
That night, mother and father make love and as they lie there in each other’s arms, they don’t count the cracks, they don’t count the years behind or think of the years ahead, but whisper and breathe and sleep and snore until the patter of bare feet brings in the new day.